Graduate School and Global Affairs: Newly formed unit is powered by strategic thinking and bold vision

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rep shadi martin vert 550x413pxShadi S. Martin, Ph.D., vice provost for Graduate and International Education, dean of the Graduate School, and Chief International Officer.Since June 2022, Shadi S. Martin, Ph.D., vice provost for Graduate and International Education, dean of the Graduate School, and Chief International Officer, has led a collaborative initiative to unite the Graduate School and the Office of Global Engagement, which were previously independent units at UAB. The units have merged to form UAB Graduate School and Global Affairs, or GSGA, marking a transformative milestone in the university's pursuit of excellence at the global level. GSGA consists of the Graduate School, INTO UAB, Education Abroad, International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS), International Faculty & Staff Immigration Services (IFSIS), and the UAB Passport Office.

"The vision of an integrated unit with the Graduate School and Global Affairs capitalizes on the natural synergies between our increased graduate international student population and the services and support provided by the Graduate School," said Pam Benoit, Ph.D., provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. UAB President Ray L. Watts, M.D., highlights the importance of this merger, affirming UAB's commitment to fostering international enrollment, which has recently reached a record high this fall. "We aim to create an environment where students can engage with peers from diverse cultures, providing them with invaluable opportunities for study, research and service on a global scale," Watts said.



With a wealth of experience in both academic and global affairs, Martin was uniquely positioned to guide this collaborative effort. Through inclusive governance and dialogues with various stakeholders, she and her team have successfully crafted a bold vision and mission for the newly formed GSGA. With support from the president, provost and the campus community, the team at GSGA has instilled a fresh purpose centered on the fundamental value of serving the greater global good.

Martin expresses the new vision of GSGA succinctly: "We provide educational and global experiences that inspire students and scholars to find their purpose and serve the greater good on a global scale," she said. She emphasizes the commitment to assisting students in achieving their goals, aligning seamlessly with the multiple objectives outlined in the new UAB strategic plan, Forging Ahead.

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The integration of the Graduate School and Global Affairs offices has resulted in increased efficiency and elevated performance across both units. Despite a nationwide trend of decline in university enrollment, UAB has experienced remarkable growth. Graduate student enrollment has increased by 5.4 percent over the past five years and international student enrollment has surged by 17 percent, reaching a record-breaking 1,728 international students on campus this fall. International students now constitute 8.2 percent of the total UAB student body. A 4.8 percent increase in graduate application volumes between fall 2022 and fall 2023 brought current graduate enrollment to 7,486. The spring 2023 commencement set new records, with more than 1,000 students earning graduate degrees across 27 disciplines, representing 26 states and 12 countries.

Other recent achievements include:

  • The Graduate Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Training Program recruited its largest class to date for fall 2023, with 77 students from 13 countries and 15 U.S. states and Puerto Rico.
  • The Master’s Program in Multidisciplinary Biomedical Science matriculated its largest cohort of 92 students this fall 2023, with 200 total students, approaching 300 alumni. In addition, a Bioinformatics Fellowship was created to provide fellows with advanced training and hands-on experience for their successful careers in the bioinformatics field.
  • There has been a significant increase in annual stipend minimums for both graduate students and post-doctoral scholars, and a taskforce has been created for regular review of stipends and benefits.
  • Student participation has rebounded in Education Abroad to pre-COVID numbers — a 35 percent increase in participation after travel resumed post-COVID.
  • Education Abroad destinations to 43 countries through 220 programs.
  • The UAB Passport Office processes over 2,000 applications a year and has facilitated 120 free U.S. passports for UAB students through a combination of grants and campus partnerships. The UAB Passport Office is recognized as the top facility for Innovative Customer Service.
  • Over 1,000 work authorizations and non-resident tax assessments for F1 and J1 visas are processed by ISSS annually, in addition to cultural programming and advising.
  • Over 250 USCIS work authorizations and permanent residence petitions have been filed by IFSIS to retain UAB’s highly skilled and talented international workforce, including clinical faculty, researchers and IT staff.
  • Creation of INTO UAB’s first digital student community platform, aimed at revolutionizing the way international students access information and support throughout their academic journey.
  • The International Student Emergency Fund was established in 2023 to provide a resource to international students and their families in the event of natural disaster, medical emergencies and more.

Reflecting on these accomplishments, Martin shows appreciation toward Provost Benoit. “I want to express my deepest gratitude to Provost Benoit for her unwavering support and leadership as I took on this role and carried on this innovative mission to combine these independent units,” Martin said. “The success of GSGA’s establishment would not have been possible without Provost Benoit and President Watts’ foundational guidance and support.”

Looking ahead, GSGA continues to advance university-wide initiatives and foster high-impact partnerships that span the university, region and globe. Anchored on interdisciplinary collaboration, cultural exchange and community engagement, GSGA delivers an all-encompassing array of support and services that will empower students and scholars from diverse backgrounds to become globally engaged citizens, poised to serve the greater global good.

Visit GSGA on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and X (formerly Twitter).